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Kennings

Share your responses on the drive with the title: Last Name Period _____ Kennings
A kenning is a figurative, compound expression used in place of a name or noun, especially in Old
English or Old Norse poetry; for example, storm of swords is a kenning for battle. Early
kennings were basically synonyms that scops used so that they could maintain the alliteration of a
line of poetry. [Alliteration required that at least two words begin with the same consonant sound.]
Kennings became so popular in their early stages that about one-third of the text of Beowulf is
composed of them. Some kennings became so common that they became clichs, such as ring-giver
for every prince, but in the best kennings one element of the phrase will create a striking, unexpected
comparison. In Beowulf, kennings provide imagery that would help the audience focus on the words
of the scop telling the story, and allow the scop some variety so that words dont become overused.
Here are some examples:
swan-road (the sea)
battle sweat (blood)
light of battle (sword)

helmet bearers (warriors)


giver of gold (king)
earth-hall (burial mound)

Another way to think of the definition is this: a kenning is a metaphor which describes everyday
objects in colorful language and is made up of compound words or the union of two separate words.
Try to figure out the common object all of these kennings describe: arrow aimer, dust terror,
antique printer, tickle tool, fowl fashionits a _________________ !
If you call school a scholars home, then you have created a kenning.
If you tell your friends that your parents are the car loaners, then you have created a kenning.
Activity #1: Listed below are some modern kennings. Can you find examples of alliteration and/or
imagery among them? Identify the object each represents:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

gas guzzler __________________


headhunter __________________
muffin top __________________
rug rat__________________
land line __________________

6. eye candy ________________________


7. cancer stick ________________________
8. Brown noser ________________________
9. couch potato ________________________
10. tramp stamp ________________________

Activity #2: Create at least 5 modern kennings of your own. Try to include poetic qualities.
_______________________________ is a __________________________________
_______________________________ is a __________________________________
_______________________________ is a __________________________________
_______________________________ is a __________________________________
_______________________________ is a __________________________________
Activity #3: Develop kennings for each of the following:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

teacher ____________________
6. bus driver __________________________
firemen _____________________ 7. Television __________________________
meatloaf ____________________ 8. Police ___________________________
pop tarts ____________________ 9. Music ___________________________
love _______________________ 10. Computer __________________________

Activity #4: Take one of your kenning from the list (or a completely different one) and add more
kennings to it to create a kenning poem. For example:
A Mother is
Nose wiper, bottom swiper,
Peacemaker, morning waker,
Food provider, task collider,
Bedroom tidier, taxi driver...
Sharon Rudd

Write your poem on a separate sheet of paper. Please put your name on the paper with your period
and the date. This is to be collected
Activity #5: Kennings can come in three forms. Look at the examples in the chart below and write
down the name or noun represented beside each kenning.
Compound Words
sky-candle ______________

Prepositional Phrases

Possessives

wolf of wounds ____________ seabirds bath ____________

whale-road ______________ winters of grief____________ oceans face _____________


ring-giver ______________ shepherd of evil ___________ heavens joy _____________